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Callum Akehurst-Ryan: from Psychology to Principal Test Engineer

Social media handle(s): LinkedIn, Website

A few words about me:

A black and white picture of a man looking to the right. The man has short dyed silver hair, a black moustache and beard and is wearing thick rectangular glasses. The background of the image is white and shows no detail, being predominantly a flat colour.

I'm a software tester based in London, and throughout my 16+ year career I’ve had a variety of roles as a Test Engineer, Test Lead and Agile coach. As a result I have a well rounded approach to leadership in an Agile environment, both as part of test and the wider team. I specialise in full stack exploratory testing, embedding Agile testing into start-ups and quality reporting.

In addition to blogging and talking about software testing, I'm a keen Dungeons and Dragons player and perform in musical theatre.

Are there any professional experiences you've had that are quite unexpected compared to what you do nowadays?

During COVID I worked as a professional Dungeon Master for the charity SurvivorsUK where I ran a Dungeons and Dragons campaign as a part of group therapy sessions.

Is your background more STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) or non-STEM related?

STEM related, my degree is in Psychology.

Where did your professional journey start?

During university I actually worked at a number of office jobs: in local council, at a warehouse and selling windows. That gave me a grounding in office work.

How did you get into tech and what motivated you?

Post university, I started working at a large insurance company in their customer services department; I'd started on the same day as a professional software tester so we started having lunch together. One day she told me about an apprenticeship in software testing opening up and that's how I got my start.

Have you experienced any 'career in tech' challenges / stereotypes?

As a queer man I've been called "too emotional" and had my thoughts dismissed, rather than engaged with, by engineers. Being openly queer makes it really easy for others to try and other you because you don't fit into the traditional engineering monoculture, either by undercutting your engineering skills, by calling you emotional rather than logical, or by saying that you're less skilled and "just a diversity hire".

I talk about my experiences further in this blog post.

"Learn to develop your skills in influencing others."

What you wish you knew before getting started in tech...

That by being openly queer as an engineer I'd have to be a role model, which means always striving to be the best I can be and show myself at my best.

What has been your biggest 'wow!' moment related to working in tech so far?

That speaking at conferences isn't as scary (or hard to do) as it seems. Also, that having a clear and strong personal brand and being active in the engineering community (through blogging, speaking and posting) is a great way to be given opportunities.

What do you like / not like about working in tech?

I really like the online community that exists; you can easily find your tribe of like minded technologists through social media and at conferences who'll support you.

I don't like the siloing that can sometimes come from different disciplines not being able to work well together. Engineering is a team sport so we should be working together, rather than creating entrenched groups that don't want to engage with each other.

"Whilst technical skills will help you to progress your career to a point, senior levels of engineering need the ability to influence others on scope, ways of working and whether something is good enough."

What's been your favourite / most memorable / funniest 'career in tech' moment so far?

Having to test an email profanity filter. I learned a lot of new and exotic swear words that week!

And to wrap up, is there any advice you'd like to give to others interested in a career in tech?

Learn to develop your skills in influencing others. Whilst technical skills will help you to progress your career to a point, senior levels of engineering need the ability to influence others on scope, ways of working and whether something is good enough.


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